Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Another Saturday Spent at Yale

Sometimes homeschooling parents wonder how well their children would do if/when they attend school or college.  Will the be prepared?  Will be adjust to a classroom and a lecture style of learning?  

I had a little glimpse this weekend into the world of “school” and it left me both upset and reassured.  Yale University is offering a series of 4 physics classes for middle school girls.  My girls registered and I took them and their two friends to New Haven for the day.  I was quite surprised at the number of children who registered for this free event.  I am guessing at least 100.  They were broken up into 4 groups and the groups were paired up for some of the lessons.  

After some finagling, I was able to get the younger girls in the same group with their sisters.  For some reason, they were separated, off in groups alone.  It was not due to age, and Lilah was very concerned about navigating a group this size, in a strange location, on her own.  It was not until I handed in their name tags and told the coordinator that they would not be attending the class that they agreed to place them with their sisters in the same group.  

I brought some work and since my friend was staying on campus, I joined her for a bit.  We listened to the girls in class clearly enjoying the lessons that were being presented.  They had a 15 minute snack break and a 45 minute lunch.  The rest of the time (4 hours) was spend on activities that brought the concept of physics of the invisible world (protons, neutrons, atoms, etc) to life.  

When Grace attends a class, she is there to learn.  She has very little patience for distractions and other students who misbehave and fool around.  She is horrified that kids would text while teachers are presenting and talking makes her lose her focus.  I have always told her to “use her words” and just ask someone to stop doing something that is inappropriate.  

The one and only time she has felt brave enough to “use her words” it backfired.  She did ask a girl to please stop talking so she could hear.  Rather than stop, or apologize, this girl laughed and looked at her friends and said sarcastically “did she just tell me to stop?”   (No you silly little girl.  She asked you to stop.)  Then this girl used every opportunity to mock and irritate Grace and her friends.  Grace is blessed with very good friends and they quickly realized that this was not right and asked for an adult to intervene.  However the girl’s seat was not changed and the behavior did not stop. 

I did email the director of this program over the weekend to bring this to her attention.  I labeled it bullying.  I asked for more adults to be dispersed in the lecture rooms so that behavior can be monitored and children who are there to learn, can do so in a respectful environment.  All you ever hear about is a zero tolerance policy for bullying but over and over again this policy fails the victims of bullying.  I am waiting for a reply.

However, this did not crush Grace.  She was not in tears.  She was angry and upset, but not defeated.  As we exited the building, all four of the girls exclaimed how grateful they were that they did not have to deal with this on a day to day basis.  I cannot imagine how difficult and unsafe and unhealthy it must be for those children who do.  

We are raising our children in an age of disrespect and I have no idea how to help them navigate.  Drivers speed through red lights but people are afraid to even beep for fear of road rage retaliation.  Teachers have to put up with students texting in class.  Heck, kids like the ones who trashed the house of an ex-NFL player have parents who defend their behavior and worry about how any punishment will affect their college applications!  We are living in a time when no one says “I’m sorry.” and people justify or rationalize bad behavior away.  It scared me.  It is no wonder that when Grace asked for someone to stop behaving a certain way she was not met with an apology or even a simple  acknowledgment but rather with hostility and spite.  

I am thankful for her friends who supported her and helped her.  I am thankful that I have a daughter who has grace and confidence and maturity.  I am just so sad she had to experience this when she thought she would be going to a Saturday class, a voluntary class, where she mistakenly assumed students in attendance would actually be there to learn.


Hwee said...

I'm sorry to hear about Grace's unhappy incident. Sadly, it is all too common. The fact that the adults who were supposed to provide supervision did nothing to stop such bullying and disruptive behaviour makes me feel that the school environment is just not a safe place for children who genuinely want to learn.

Karen said...

Keilee is the same way. She is there to learn too. It drives her crazy that people talk and misbehave when a teacher is talking. I am so sorry Grace had to go through this. At the same time, I am SO thankful they don't have to deal with this on a day to day basis. We do live in a world with few boundaries and no manners it seems. I have no idea what the answer is but I believe it has to start with the parents. Let's talk this week?

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Jessica said...

We have taken many other classes here that were wonderful. In fact, the content provided was exceptional, but the environment was less than optimal for those children who truly want to absorb all the information they are being presented. When she goes for the second class, I will stick close by to make sure there are no issues should this same group of girls also attend, but I will also give her the advice to sit as close to the teacher as possible. I forget these little tidbits of "how to survive school" that you just know if you attend school, but seem like a foreign concept if you don't.

Jessica said...

How do the kids learn if the parents are not modeling appropriate behavior? I know you and I were talking about how we sometimes have no idea what is going on in our world because we are not watching and reading about news 24/7 but when I hear about the attack on a father in Manhattan by a gang of rogue motorcyclists, or about the group of kids who vandalized a home and refuse to take accountability, or watch our government spiral out of control and no one wants to step up and lead us to a better place, I just don't know how we are going to raise children to thrive in this new social environment. At times it truly scares me.......

Let's talk. Today?

Bridget said...

My 7th grader attended school for one year (5th grade), during which time he was called fat, stupid, etc., and was hit on two different occasions. When my husband met with the teacher to discuss the problems, she actually said that perhaps our son just wasn't used to dealing with other kids because he had been homeschooled. My husband - God love him - called BS on that. Our son NEVER encountered bullying on his baseball or hockey teams, in CCD classes, or in our homeschool group. But the teacher's response was to blame the victim (I hate to refer to him that way!) rather than to address the true problem - the culture in that classroom and her unwillingness to do a damn thing about it. If adults would step up to the plate and call kids out for their behavior while at the same time being willing to defend themselves when the inevitable parental backlash happens, then perhaps kids wouldn't bully as much. There is so little accountability these days!

Jessica said...

Bridget, I am so sorry that your son had to go through this experience. I was just reading an article about a girl in FL who committed suicide when she could not longer take the bullying and the parents of the accused girls are up in arms that it was not their child's fault. Deaths are happening and yet no one will take responsibility or be accountable for behavior. You are absolutely correct in stating that nothing will change until the adults who are charged with the protection of children take a stand, however uncomfortable it may be, and put a stop to the behavior and hold people accountable for their actions.

Thank you for taking the time to reply with your personal story. I hope your son is in a better place now whether it is back at home or in another school.

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